Chicago Seven: 7 Early Takaways From The Chicago Teachers Strike

As the strike in Chicago enters its second day there is a lot of uncertainty but here are some early takeaways events in Chicago should probably remind us of:

Seriously, it’s not all about the kids.  Saying it’s ‘all about the kids’ is education’s version of a routinized benediction.  You hear it all the time – and often just preceding or just after some decision that’s actually not that good for kids.  The system is more or less still set up for the benefit of adults – and that’s not just teachers unions, it’s management, vendors, and so forth, too. In this case, if the kids really mattered most then almost 400K of them wouldn’t be without places to go today because the adults charged with teaching them decided to strike.

This is a clash of values.  This Ed Trust statement calls out the teachers union for low-balling expectations for kids. It’s a good illustration of how underneath the posturing and rhetoric and the substantive disagreements Chicago is really about what kind of school system they city is going to have – the old kind, which was a quasi-jobs program or the new type where performance and execution matter most. In that way the strike is an important national moment.

And it has to be more public.  If you’re going to put almost 400K kids on the street, probably good to clearly articulate the exact reasons why in public beforehand.  As I wrote yesterday in TIME, bargaining in public is not a panacea to all this but there really isn’t a downside except that it makes things a little harder for the adults.

It’s all about more collaboration! It’s all about teacher voice!  Enough said.

Like in surfing, locals rule. We have all these national debate, No Child Left Behind, Common Core, vouchers, and so on, and they matter.  But Chicago should remind us that this is still a pretty decentralized system and a lot of what matters most to what happens in schools is a state or local matter.

New Haven or New Orleans [insert favorite initiative here] is a national model.  The next time you hear someone saying that X is a national model bear in mind that Chicago is the country’s third largest school system. Anything can work somewhere (I happen to like what’s happening in New Haven and the New Orleans story is pretty remarkable,) but until ideas get widespread traction let’s go easy on declaring things models.

This is [not] easy!  From all sides of the debate there is often a thinly veiled assumption that if you just did X (listen to teachers more, do what reformers want, stop all this focus on evaluation, get rid of charters, etc…) this is all pretty easy. It’s not.  These are complicated issues in a $650 billion (nationally) system in transition and facing substantial generational tensions. If the past 36 hours teach us anything it should be that.

6 Replies to “Chicago Seven: 7 Early Takaways From The Chicago Teachers Strike”

  1. Disgusting comments from a truly shameless shill.

    Why do only right-wingers and phony “Democrats” say good things about you?

    Do you think it might be time to stop pretending that you’re some sort of “moderate”? LOL!

  2. Rahm’s kids go to a school without high stakes tests.

    They go to a school with seven full time art teachers.

    Their school has three different libraries.

    In Chicago, kids take 18-25 days of standardized testing.

    Many schools have no art or music teachers at all.

    Many have no library.

    Many have no air conditioning – not even the ones that are in session in July and August.

    Why, Rahm, do your kids get the high quality education taught by teachers not under the VAM death watch while Chicago kids get the shaft?

    The same, btw, can be asked of President Obama and his daughters.

    Obama’s kids get a high quality education at Sidwell Friends School while Obama promotes federal education policies that call for high stakes testing throughout the year in every grade in every subject so that many teachers can be fired.

    Politicians of BOTH parties are dumbing down and narrowing down the educational opportunities for the vast majority of the children in this country while making sure their own kids get an elite education fit for the sons and daughters of kings.

    I wonder what type of school the young Rotherhams will attend?

  3. What is the opinion of the head of the school where Rahm’s kids go:
    Writing on the University of Chicago’s Lab School website two years ago, David Magill noted, “Measuring outcomes through standardized testing and referring to those results as the evidence of learning and the bottom line is, in my opinion, misguided and, unfortunately, continues to be advocated under a new name and supported by the current [Obama] administration.”

  4. More pearls of wisdom from the man responsible for the education of Rahm Emmauel’s children:
    Regardless of what one thinks about the formation of organized labor for teachers in the early 1900s, its rapid growth since the late 1960s, and collective bargaining in the twenty-first century, I shudder to think of who would be attracted to teach in our public schools without unions. As a twenty-two-year-old rookie teacher, I remember wanting to earn my age in thousands of dollars. Now that I am nearing the age of social security, the average teacher in America still does not earn my age, and many of them have had no choice but to take on second jobs to make ends meet.

  5. And one last tidbit:
    You know first hand that schools cut “frills” in an attempt to maintain the basics. It’s who defines that term and how cuts are applied that too often become a very bad solution to the underlying problem of cost. Physical education, world languages, libraries, and the arts are not “frills.” They are an essential piece of a well-rounded education. From the time of the Renaissance, every enlightened citizenry has known of the importance of culture, the arts, and being physically fit. Well roundedness is at the heart of Dewey’s philosophy and, as a young child, you had the good fortune of being heavily exposed to a balanced educational program. It served you well. Be sure that the states do not sacrifice balance with the current generation of children under the guise of raising test scores and lack of funding.

    What did President Nixon’s attorney general say – Watch what we do, not what we say.

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